Is your second serve a friend or an enemy to your game? Having
a weak second serve can be a big disadvantage. It not only
puts the pressure on you to get your first serve in, but it
allows your opponent the opportunity to take control of the
point early. Avoid thinking of the second serve as the shot
that you need to get in the box just to get the point started.
The second serve can be a weapon, or at minimum, a way to
fight off your opponent from attacking and putting the pressure
on early. There are 3 ways to beef up your second serve to
make it more of a weapon. The 3 ways to improve a second serve
are spin, placement and speed. If you can incorporate just
2 out of 3 of these you are well on your way to having a very
solid second serve!
There are 4 types of spin you can use on your second serve; flat,
slice, topspin or the kick serve. Being able to use the different
spins helps to keep your opponents guessing and always having to
adjust to the different spins. Slice serves are effective, but unless
you can really pull someone off of the court with a slice second
serve, I recommend developing a topspin serve or a kick serve (AKA,
American Twist Serve). The advantage of the topspin and kick serves
is the way that they bounce. Both of these serves bounce very high
making them hard serves to attack. The topspin bounces high because
of topspin. The kick serve bounces high but also takes a slight
change in direction when it hits the court, which makes the ball
harder to judge. Many players stand further back when you hit the
high bouncing serves as opposed to returning the slice serve. If
you can get them to stand further back you will have more time to
react to their return and it will also be harder for them to hit
a clean winner. To
read in more detail about the 4 different types of serves click
Placement is where many players fall short on the second serve.
Many players have the goal of just making sure their second serve
lands in the service box, and they do not really care where it lands
as long as it lands in. Being able to place your second serve gives
you an advantage. If you can place the serve where you want in the
box you can start to hit to your opponent's weaker side. If you
mix placement with spin you can really start to pick on their weaker
side. Being able to pull your opponent out wide on a second serve
may be to your advantage if your opponent is a slower player. Placement
is key, and if you are not placing your second serve than you need
to start. It takes practice and a certain level of comfort. Grab
a bucket of balls and go out to the court alone and practice aiming
your second serve. You will thank yourself when you are able to
hit to your opponent's weak backhand as opposed to their rocket
I am mentioning speed last because I think it is the least important.
Speed can help, there is no doubt about it. But unless you are Pete
Sampras or Andy Roddick, most players do not have fast second serves.
Speeding up your second serve will force your opponent to have to
react quicker and may earn you some free points. However, of all
the options, speed is the one that can get you in the most trouble.
Going for too much on a second serve can cause errors. As you develop
spins and placement speed naturally follows. As you become more
confident with the serve you can trying swinging a little faster
and see where that takes you.
My former tennis pro used to tell me this: "Swing as hard at the
second serve as you do at the first, just use all spin". I took
his advise, or 90% of it. I swing about 90% as hard at the second
serve as I do the first serve, but I use all spin. Top spin and
kick serves are a safe bet, they give you the biggest margin of
error over the net and also brings the ball back down once it crosses
the net. Once you have the spin down, try placing the ball. Once
you can place the ball with spin, try speeding up the serve.
Developing a decent second serve will improve your game immensely.
You will be able to force your opponent to hit on their weaker side,
you can move your opponent around, force them to stand further back,
open up the court and force more errors. Try to practice your second
serve outside of a match when there is no pressure. Set up targets
if you have to or set goals for yourself. Working on your second
serve can make your life on the tennis court will be better.